A baby receives many benefits from breast milk – it is essential to their development and can protect against infections and health conditions like diabetes and obesity.
Breast milk contains proteins, fats, vitamins and carbohydrates and is the perfect balanced meal for your baby.
Although breastfeeding benefits both mom and baby, it's a personal decision for each new mom.
We asked three dietitians about their experiences with breastfeeding. This is what they had to say.
‘Bonding with my children while breastfeeding was special’
Choosing to breastfeed was an easy decision – I was determined to make it work because of the benefits to my babies and me. Nutrition during pregnancy and in the first few years of a child’s life provides the foundations of a person’s lifelong health – including one’s predisposition to obesity and certain chronic diseases. Breastfeeding plays a key role as an optimal nutrition practice during this window period. This was my motivation to breastfeed.
For me, the benefit to my emotional health far outweighed the physical health benefits. Being able to bond with both my children during the time I breastfed was special. I also have a family history of breast cancer and breastfeeding has been shown to lower one’s risk of breast cancer.
There are so many benefits for the baby too. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants and is easily digested by the baby; it protects the baby against illness and infections; it reduces the occurrence of allergies; and breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of various diseases including otitis media, diabetes and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Maryke Gallagher, mother of two, ADSA spokesperson and registered dietitian
‘Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for an infant’
I chose to breastfeed because I know it is the best form of nutrition for an infant. Breast milk offers them immunity where formula does not.
Breastfeeding saved me in terms of my sanity – it provided me with major psychological benefits. I didn’t have to heat bottles in the middle of the night, I didn’t have to mix anything or sterilise bottles.
As a new mom, everything is overwhelming – but breastfeeding allowed me to concentrate on spending as much time as I could with my daughter. They grow up too quickly!
I look forward to the additional benefits which may not be seen now but that I may benefit from in the future, which is include a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer (breast cancer runs in my family) and a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis (which also runs in my family).
For the baby, there are also many benefits. Your baby will receive complete nutrition, antibodies that help them build their immunity, reduced risk of allergy, reduced risk of SIDS, reduced risk of type 1 diabetes and cancer, and it even helps baby deal with pain (from teething or vaccinations).
My advice? Get help if you need it – don’t wait. Breastfeeding is not always as easy and natural as people may tell you. You will need support from your partner, friends, family, colleagues and your health professional.
Support all women who choose to breastfeed. We need to normalise breastfeeding so that society begins to embrace the fact that breast milk is the “normal” form of milk to give to an infant.
- Cath Day, first-time mom, ADSA spokesperson and registered dietitian
‘I breastfed three children for a total of 53 months’
It was absolutely an easy decision to breastfeed – I knew all the benefits it had for my baby, myself and our relationship. I breastfed my three children for a total of 53 months.
I saw a number of benefits to myself – I lost the weight I gained during pregnancy within three months and I didn’t menstruate for 10 months after the birth of each child. In fact, breastfeeding is still protecting me against breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and becoming overweight.
Strengthening of your baby’s immune system is probably the biggest benefit, especially for babies who are going to a day-care facility. If a mom can spend some time at the day care centre after work to come into contact with the germs that her baby was exposed to, her body will make antibodies specifically against those germs and give her baby a good shot of natural, targeted antibiotics with every breastfeed.
- Zelda Ackerman, mother of three, ADSA spokesperson and registered dietitian
Image credits: Supplied